Episode 98: The Good Friends swear the oaths of Dagon

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We’re back and we’re getting some of that old-time religion. When we say old-time, we mean pre-Christian. Or maybe we mean dating back to 1917. It can be so hard to tell sometimes. Our subject for this episode is the god Dagon, who had a long history before Lovecraft got ahold of him, so means different things to different people.

Part man, part fish, part wifi repeater.

Our discussion takes us from Dagon’s origins, through his appearances in the Old Testament, on to his rebirth in fiction as the god of the Deep Ones, and finally to his place in popular culture and gaming. While Dagon may not be the only real-world deity Lovecraft used, this reinvention is bolder and more iconic than that of Nodens, Bast or Hypnos.

Also, none of their priests got to wear fish on their heads.

This episode is not just a history lesson. We also talk about how we might use Dagon in our games, finding more interesting angles than “big stompy Deep One”.  The fact that Dagon is so sketchily defined in Call of Cthulhu and Lovecraftian fiction gives our imaginations plenty to space to run free.

And there are few spaces wider than the ocean depths.

If our look at Dagon proves popular, we plan to return to this format and examine other Mythos deities in future episodes. Our recent discussion of The Seven Geases reminded us how much some of these gods have changed between their first appearances in fiction and their entries in the Call of Cthulhu rules. By digging into their histories, we hope we can find new and interesting ways of using them in our games.

Although even we would struggle to make them this different.

The Deep Ones of Innsmouth croak out warbling, blasphemous hymns to their benefactors, and who are we to defy tradition? We have a number of new Patreon backers to sing to, possibly because of the rapidly approaching cut-off for issue 2 of the Blasphemous Tome. Only two of the songs are in this episode, however. You can have too much of a good thing, or whatever it is we do. There will be more song in episode 99.

“Now flap your gill slits and get some vibrato going…”

In the news segment, we make mention of Chaosium’s recent release of our Pulp Cthulhu campaign, The Two-Headed Serpent. This is a huge event for us. We spent three years putting this beast together and we are thrilled to unleash it upon the world.

We also mention the current Kickstarter campaign for Stygian Fox’s new Call of Cthulhu scenario anthology, Fear’s Sharp Little Needles. Matt and Scott both have scenarios in this book, and we have been delighted with the progress we’ve seen on the project as a whole. The Kickstarter has funded and is busy racking up stretch goals. The campaign will wrap up at the end of February, so act soon if you want to back it!

Posted in Call of Cthulhu, H.P. Lovecraft, Horror Films, Horror Stories, Inspiration, Roleplaying Games, The Good Friends of Jackson Elias | Tagged , , | 8 Comments

Episode 97: The Good Friends go to extremes in gaming

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We’re back and we’re heading into uncomfortable territory. This is our discussion about extreme subject matter in games. As you might surmise, the conversation gets a little unpleasant at times. It is hard to talk about things that genuinely upset us without talking about things that, um, genuinely upset us. Inevitably, this leads us to discuss topics such as sexual violence, cruelty to children and animals, gore, necrophilia and cannibalism. If you are worried that we might bring up something you really don’t want to hear, it’s probably safest to assume that we do.

We start off by trying to define our terms, using examples from media — mainly horror films — that exemplify what we mean by “extreme”. We largely focus on the difficulties of portraying extreme content, whether this is repelling your audience, being so focused on transgression that you fail to do anything interesting or crossing the line into unintentional farce.

This episode isn’t just a catalogue of atrocities, however. We try to identify where our own boundaries lie, how to handle it when a game crosses the line and possible techniques to stop players becoming uncomfortable (in the wrong way) without neutering the game. This last topic in particular, tricky as it is, is one we care passionately about. All three of us run a lot of horror games at conventions or online, often for people we’ve never met before, and there is a world of difference between making someone’s skin crawl in a fun way and stirring up horrible emotions that will leave them upset afterwards. Finding that balance isn’t always easy and we’ve all made missteps.

This was one of the longest recording sessions we’ve had. We spent the best part of three hours dissecting these topics, trying to work out where our respective boundaries lie and why they are there. We were stopped only by sore feet and the encroachment of teatime. Paul has been fairly brutal in cutting down our rambling, removing redundant examples and circular arguments. We hope that we have left you with only the juiciest meat of the discussion.

Posted in Call of Cthulhu, Horror Films, Roleplaying Games, The Good Friends of Jackson Elias | 5 Comments

Episode 96 – The Good Friends babble on about Pontypool

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Episode 96: Pontypool

We’re back and we’re trying to make even less sense than usual. This is for your protection. Pontypool has taught us the hidden dangers that lie in meaning, so we’re going to follow the advice of William S Burroughs and exterminate all rational thought.

William S Burroughs

Cut the word lines. And step out into silence. It is yours. It is everybody’s. You do not see the trees when you walk down the street because of ‘The “Word” Tree’.

While Pontypool is not based on the work of Burroughs, his influence coats it like a viscous splatter of undifferentiated tissue. This is possibly the strangest zombie film ever made, if you can even call it a zombie film, more concerned with linguistics than brain-eating. It deals with a maddening memetic plague, spreading like a virus through the English language. Any word could be the one that sends you into a spiral of cannibalistic insanity.

Saying “week” instead of “fortnight” has this effect on me.

While there is little action or violence in Pontypool, its strange ideas, claustrophobic setting and slow build up of dread are all great inspiration for horror RPGs. We spend some time picking these elements apart and discussing how we would use them in our games.

To be fair, this kind of thing happens in most games I run.

And speaking of horrible things coming from human mouths, spreading madness and suffering, there is more singing in this episode. We have a new $5 backer on Patreon, so we are singing our thanks in our own, indescribable manner. In fact, we have a lot of thanks to offer in this episode. This is probably because of the upcoming cut-off for issue 2 of our backer-only fanzine, The Blasphemous Tome. Time is running out!

The faces we pull while singing are far more alarming than this.

As we mention at the start of the episode, Matt appeared on a recent panel discussion hosted by Thom Raley of Into the Darkness. If you fancy learning more about scenario design or simply want to marvel at Matt’s groaning bookshelves, click below!

And in our Lovecraftian Word of the Fortnight Week segment, we mention a marvellous sketch from Burnistoun that mixes Lovecraftian horror and the mundanity of dealing with the council. Well, here it is in all its sanity-blasting glory.

If you liked that, you may also enjoy their cosmic-horror-tinged Epiphany Continuum sketch.

 

Posted in Horror Films, Television, The Blasphemous Tome, The Good Friends of Jackson Elias | 6 Comments

Episode 95 – The Good Friends scan the Mythos for science fiction

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We’re back and we’re setting our long-range scanners to search the cosmos for the insidious influence of the Mythos. One of the things that set Lovecraft’s work apart from the Gothic tales that had previously dominated the genre was the way it incorporated elements of science fiction. This isn’t to say that Lovecraft was the first writer to mix horror and SF—they have been kissing cousins since Mary Shelly wrote Frankenstein.

Charles Ogle as Frankenstein's monster

Pucker up!

Instead, Lovecraft used science fiction elements to make a kind of supernatural horror that had no reliance on the supernatural itself. By using aliens as his gods and monsters, he created something that felt both familiar and utterly different from anything that had gone before. H G Wells’s Martians may have had tentacles and travelled to Earth on meteors, but no one ever worshipped them as gods.

Maybe they would have inspired more awe had they looked less like testicles.

Our discussion focuses on how a number of classic science fiction tropes are used in Lovecraft and Call of Cthulhu. The main topics we cover are aliens, space travel, other dimensions, time travel and mad science. We also look at some published games and Call of Cthulhu settings that bring the SF aspects of the Mythos to the forefront. We wrap things up by brainstorming some science fiction scenario ideas of our own.

We never said we used our own brains…

This episode also sees a brief audio review of a new collection of Mythos stories, The Private Life of Elder Things. If you want to read a more in-depth review, we published one recently.

As we also mention this episode, there is still time to ensure you receive a copy of issue 2 of The Blasphemous Tome. This is the fanzine that we produce exclusively for people who back the podcast on Patreon. If you are a backer at the time of release (probably in early February) then you will receive at least one copy. Please see our recent update for more details.

Posted in Call of Cthulhu, H.P. Lovecraft, Horror Stories, Review, The Blasphemous Tome, The Good Friends of Jackson Elias | 2 Comments

The Macabre

It’s been a good year for comedic Lovecraftian short films. As we’ve mentioned before, Greig Johnson and Chris Lackey have produced a number of excellent and funny takes on Lovecraft stories that deserve a lot more attention than they’ve been getting.

In a similar vein, The Macabre from Philip Kreyche mixes Lovecraftian horror and comedy deftly. Rather than taking its inspiration from a Lovecraft story, it instead uses Lovecraft himself as a character, blurring the line between his life and his work. This is a well-observed little film, and Lovecraft fans will find themselves smiling and nodding throughout.

The Macabre also has production values far beyond what I’d expect from a Lovecraftian short. While it may be a little predictable, it is unquestionably funny and entertaining. I hope to see more such work from Mr Kreyche someday!

 

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